Quarantine Syllabus

nick-fewings-ka7REB1AJl4-unsplashHonestly, I’m taking this quarantine day by day (sometimes minute by minute), and I’m respecting my body and anxiety when they tells me they just want to be still or watch Netflix or take a second nap.

Motivation comes and goes. I am using this as a guide. Week one is just ending, and I only revised 15 of the 25 pages I’d hoped for. It’s okay. It’s all okay. I’m grateful for any steps I take; I’m [trying to be] gracious about any steps I can’t.

Posting this partially for accountability– but also just in case it helps anyone else.

Syllabus for Writing Salt Novel
14 Weeks

“[T]his ‘work’ had been driven by the question, What’s wrong with me? The question her Mentor replaced this with was, Which parts of myself need to be loved today?
The Hero is You, Kendra Levin

Required Reading
All That Is Made: a Guide to Faith and the Creative Life from Alabaster Co.
The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown
Keep Going by Austin Kleon

March 30-April 5


Part I, Ch. 1 All That Is Made 𛲠

Pg. 1-22 Gifts of Imperfection 𛲠

Step 1 of Keep Going 𛲠


Pg. 1-25 𛲠

Related “Interview” Chapter Breaks 𛲠


April 6-April 12


Part I, Ch. 2-3 All That Is Made 𛲠

Pg. 23-48 Gifts of Imperfection 𛲠



Pg. 26-50 𛲠

Related “Interview” Chapter Breaks 𛲠


April 13-April 19


Part I, Ch. 4 All That Is Made 𛲠

Guidepost #1 Gifts of Imperfection 𛲠

Step 2 of Keep Going 𛲠



Pg. 51-75 𛲠

Related “Interview” Chapter Breaks 𛲠


Conversation with a Creative Ally 𛲠


April 20-April 26


Part I, Ch. 5-6 All That Is Made 𛲠

Guidepost #2 Gifts of Imperfection 𛲠



Pg. 76-100 𛲠

Related “Interview” Chapter Breaks 𛲠


April 27-May 3


Part I, Ch. 7 All That Is Made 𛲠

Guidepost #3 Gifts of Imperfection 𛲠

Step 3 of Keep Going 𛲠



Pg. 101-125 𛲠

Related “Interview” Chapter Breaks 𛲠


May 4-May 10


Part I, Ch. 8-9 All That Is Made 𛲠

Guidepost #4 Gifts of Imperfection 𛲠

Step 4 of Keep Going 𛲠


No revisions this week/Catch-up


Conversation with a Creative Mentor 𛲠


May 11-May 17


Part II, Ch. 1 All That Is Made 𛲠

Guidepost #5 Gifts of Imperfection 𛲠

Step 5 of Keep Going 𛲠



Pg. 126-150 𛲠

Related “Interview” Chapter Breaks 𛲠


May 18-May 24


Part II, Ch. 2-3 All That Is Made

Guidepost #6 Gifts of Imperfection

Step 6 of Keep Going



Pg. 151-175 𛲠

Related “Interview” Chapter Breaks 𛲠


May 25-May 31


Part II, Ch. 4 All That Is Made 𛲠

Guidepost #7 Gifts of Imperfection 𛲠

Step 7 of Keep Going 𛲠



Pg. 176-200 𛲠

Related “Interview” Chapter Breaks 𛲠


Conversation with a Creative Ally 𛲠


June 1-June 7


Part II, Ch. 5-6 All That Is Made 𛲠

Guidepost #8 Gifts of Imperfection 𛲠

Step 8 of Keep Going 𛲠



Pg. 201-225 𛲠

Related “Interview” Chapter Breaks 𛲠


June 8-June 14


Part III, Ch. 1 All That Is Made 𛲠

Guidepost #9 Gifts of Imperfection 𛲠

Step 9 of Keep Going 𛲠



Pg. 226-250 𛲠

Related “Interview” Chapter Breaks 𛲠


June 15-June 21


Part III, Ch. 2 All That Is Made 𛲠

Guidepost #10 Gifts of Imperfection 𛲠

Step 10 of Keep Going 𛲠


No revisions this week/Catch-up


Conversation with a Creative Mentor 𛲠


June 22-June 28


Part III, Ch. 3-4 All That Is Made 𛲠



Pg. 251-275 𛲠

Related “Interview” Chapter Breaks 𛲠


June 29-July 5


Part III, Ch. 5-6 All That Is Made 𛲠



Pg. 276-300 𛲠

Related “Interview” Chapter Breaks 𛲠


Celebrate Independence Day!


Hormones & Lies

Gosh, there are just so many things that can lead us astray. We expect “enemies” to do so, but it’s confusing when our “allies” do.

Mind (brain disorders)

Body (trauma)

Hormones (“chemical lies”)

Heart (deceitful)

Even some incredible therapy techniques rely on processing lies until they feel ridiculous. I think they still ultimately are based upon “the truth will set you free.” They just approach it slant-wise.

Why does that sound familiar?

Oh yeah.

Anyway, I’m just in a week with lots of lies coming at me. At least I can recognize it! But lies don’t cut sharp; they make blunt.

How do you resharpen when you feel dull, friends?

nOCD, an ERP App/Hero

If you’ve spent time around this blog, you know that I wrestled my life and freedom back from the clutches of obsessive-compulsive disorder in 2008. (Read more about my story at jackieleasommers.com/OCD).

From the onset of my symptoms to my diagnosis: 15 years.
From my diagnosis to appropriate treatment (ERP): 5 years.
From treatment to freedom: 12 weeks. (<–Read that again please.)

Exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy is powerful, friends.

On average, it takes OCD sufferers 14-17 years to get the correct diagnosis and treatment. This is not okay. 

So many OCD sufferers cannot afford treatment. In some countries, ERP therapy is simply not available. In fact, in some countries, the stigma associated with having a brain disorder like OCD is so strong that sufferers would not dare admit to needing help. This is not okay. 

The creators of the nOCD app felt the same way. One contacted me and said, “Our goal is to reduce the time it takes for people with OCD to get effective treatment (from decades to minutes).” He said, “One thing advocacy has shown me is the need for OCD treatment in other countries! There are people in Bangladesh, India, etc that have literally nobody! My team is actually building a 24/7 support community within nOCD to combat this issue.”

The app is FREE and, I-hope-I-hope-I-hope, going to change the world.

Some of the very best things about this app:


Right now it’s available for iPhones, but this fall, the Android version will come out. Please check it out here. And be sure to tell me what you think!

xoxo Jackie

When It Hurts to Breathe

The stress got bad, friends. Really, really bad.

My chest was so tight. It hurt to breathe. I would wake up panicking.

I went back to my therapist. I made another appointment with my psychiatrist. But when I felt like an elephant was standing on my chest, I went into the doctor.

They don’t play around with this stuff, especially when one’s father has had triple bypass surgery. I had an immediate chest x-ray and an EKG. I just tried not to cry.

But things are fine. I mean, mostly. My x-ray was fine; my EKG was … fine-ish. My doctor felt satisfied with it, but she still wants to run it by a cardiologist.

It’s just stress. Damn. Isn’t it wild what stress can do to our bodies??

She and my therapist both said: focus on breathing.

My doctor also said: laughIt will open up your chest.

Breathe and laugh. I can do that. Right?

Even my editor told me to rest a little.

That part seems easy enough. All I want to do is sleep. I think I might have some depression issues going on or else maybe this how I get every winter. -40 degrees does little to contribute to breathing or laughing or being joyful.

anatomyBut– a bright spot– I am reading this tremendous book, The Anatomy of Story by John Truby. I’m only two chapters in and it’s sort of changing my life. It’s such a beautiful, deep, thorough way to look at writing a story. It helps that I’ve been thinking of my story and these characters for about a year and a half. It would maybe be overwhelming to use this book to drum something up from scratch, but this way, it feels really productive and thoughtful. I’m loving it and highly recommend it so far.

I really wish that I could just take a month off of work to take care of myself. But that’s not an option, so I have to work self-care into the nooks and crannies of life. I need to breath, laugh, and rest. Love that prescription!


Today’s Surprise: the Anxiety/Depression Test Scores of the Blogger

So, this is interesting.

My therapist switched to a new practice, so even though I’ve been meeting with her for around a year, I had to fill out all new intake forms for the new place, including taking the Burns Anxiety Inventory and the Burns Depression Checklist.

How’d I score?

Anxiety: 41. This puts me in the “severe anxiety” category (31-50), which surprised me. I definitely thought I’d be lower than that since I’m handling anxiety about a hundred times better than this time last year. That said, last year, I would have certainly fallen into the “extreme anxiety or panic” category (51-99). Do you remember when I was having multiple panic attacks* a week? I’m so grateful to have moved on from that. I should be getting my revision feedback from my editor on book #2 any day now, and I pray it won’t spike! I’ve learned a lot of good tools in the past year!

*I never knew if this was strictly what they were, but panic is what I was feeling, and it manifested itself in very physical ways. Is that a panic attack?

anxiety scores

Depression: 21. This puts me just barely into the “moderate depression” category (21-30), one point away from “mild depression.” I was kind of surprised this wasn’t lower too! I can’t tell you how much mentally healthier I am than during the days when OCD ruled the roost.

Themes that emerged were my fears of criticism and disapproval, concerns about inadequacy and inferiority.

My co-worker said she was fascinated. “Here you have done so much– written a book— and yet you worry so much about inadequacy!” It’s true. It’s a thorn in my side. I need to learn to compete against myself and not others (cough, cough, my writer’s envy), but I don’t know how. Something to talk about with my therapist, once I start meeting with at the new place, I guess!

My co-worker also said, “You have these fears, but you don’t let them stop you.”

“Most of the time,” I stipulated.

It’s true. I am scared a lot, but courage is fear that keeps showing up to work.

So, while the test scores were surprising to me, I can work with them. God can work with them. He has and will.

A Portrait of Uncertainty, Before & After

SONY DSCUncertainty, Before ERP: intolerable agony. Even a sliver of uncertainty would collapse my entire self. It was torture, hell on earth. I didn’t think I could stand it for one more minute. And, in fact, because of that intense pressing need to erase the uncertainty, I’d usually do something to alleviate the ugly anxiety … but compulsions prevent you from realizing that you can live one more minute. And then another. And as the minutes stack up, you start to get used to the cold water. In fact, it stops feeling icy.

Uncertainty After ERP: uncomfortable still, but necessary. These days uncertainty feels like a built-in, expected part of life. It’s no one’s favorite thing to experience, but I experience it much the same way as the general population. It’s not an emergency; it’s just an inconvenience. And because I learned that I could survive– and even thrive– by embracing uncertainty, I actually love it more than most people.

Uncertainty isn’t the enemy. ERP can set you free.
Go to www.jackieleasommers.com/OCD-help for more details.


Image credit: Mark Turnauckas

What Does Compassion Look Like?

Heart in the stone fenceMany, many OCD sufferers have been contacting me lately: they want to share their story, seek advice, and– in many cases– seek reassurance. Do you really think this is OCD?

My answer is pretty standard for those I believe are truly dealing with OCD. I tell them I’m not a mental health professional but that, in my experience, what they are describing sounds a lot like other cases of OCD. I encourage them to seek out ERP therapy.

They write back: So you really do think this is OCD?

But I know this routine.

It’s usually a compulsion, their asking repeatedly.

I explain this to them, remind them that I’ve already told them what I think.

I just want to make sure, they say. You really, really think this is OCD?

I explain again that their asking me over and over is not healthy for them and that they need to do ERP.

A week later, they’ll message me and ask again. I become a broken record, refusing to give in to their compulsions and doling out tougher and tougher love:

* I’ve told you what I believe and what is the solution. I have nothing more to add.
* Can you see that you’ve asked me X times now? That is a compulsion– seeking reassurance– and I’m not going to give in to it. It’ s unhealthy for you.

Or, in some cases, I won’t respond. What more is there to say?

This troubles me.

On the one hand, I know what it’s like to be gripped with the incredible fear and doubt of OCD. I know how it dials up to a fever pitch, and how desperately you just want. some. relief.

But I also know that compulsions are a short-term non-solution that only exacerbates things. I know that ERP therapy is the long-term solution.

It puts me in a really rough spot. I fear that I come across as cold, hard-hearted, tough, even rude. The years since I underwent ERP therapy have brought such intense clarity to my thinking that sometimes it’s hard for me to empathize in the same way I once could. Don’t get me wrong. I remember the 20 years of OCD hell. I haven’t forgotten. But the almost seven years since my own successful treatment have made me more confident in just about every way– including in what the appropriate treatment for OCD is. I won’t budge on it. I won’t recommend a band-aid. I can’t.

And I can’t cater to compulsions. I did that for myself for too many heartbreaking years, and I won’t give in to something that perpetuates prison for other sufferers.

In my desperate desire for their freedom, I think I come across too tough.

I don’t know the answer to this. I’m frustrated: with myself, with others.

But I know that compulsions kept me locked up and ERP set me free. That’s the line I draw in the sand. Maybe I’m being too tough on hurting souls. But I would be a liar if I gave out band-aids to cancer patients. That’s why I refuse to parry to compulsions.

For those of you involved in advocacy, is this a problem that you’ve had to face? How have you managed it with grace and compassion? I want to fight the good fight, but I feel so frustrated and tired.

This week, I counted up all the emails that the OCD community and I have batted around for the last two years, and it was near 2500. I’ve decided that– for the time being– I can no longer respond to these emails. It’s pushing me into an unhealthy place. I closed the messaging option on my Facebook page and posted this message on my Contact page:

Due to an overwhelming number of emails about OCD, HOCD, ERP, and the like, I am no longer able to respond to personal messages about these matters; I’m not a therapist, and though it honors me that you’d share your story with me, I’ve found that I am not in a place where I can handle such stories in a healthy way. I invite you to read my message to you atwww.jackieleasommers.com/OCD-help. It is everything that I would say to you in an email. I wish you all the best as you pursue freedom from OCD. Godspeed.

These actions have given me a sense of both freedom and failure, but I hope people will understand.

OCD: A Simple Definition

When I talk about OCD, I typically start with defining it. “It’s all in the name,” I say. “Obsessive. Compulsive. Disorder.”



OCD causes unwanted, intrusive, repeated thoughts that induce intense anxiety.


To alleviate the anxiety, an OCD sufferer performs some action or ritual.


The obsessions and compulsions cause harm and anxiety and disrupt daily life.


When someone asks me, “Do I have OCD?” I ask for their story and listen for all three parts.

Note: sometimes compulsions are a little harder to recognize because they might be internal and hard to see, but they’re there– I’m what’s called a “Pure-O,” but I still have(/had, thanks to ERP!) compulsions such as seeking reassurance, confession, and repetitive prayer.


A New OCD Page

help word in metal typeFrom time to time, life becomes so overwhelming that I have to temporarily remove my email address from my website. It’s that case right now. Between busting my butt on my next novel (especially after I changed story ideas late in the game!), trying to be healthier, working full-time as a recruiter, and trying to be a good friend, daughter, and sister, my life is pretty crazy right now.

I recognize that I’m not the only resource available for OCD sufferers, but even so, I count it as an honor that people would be willing to share their stories with me. It always hurts me to take my email address down. In its stead, I’ve added a new page on my website: OCD Help. It’s exactly what I would tell someone who approached me for advice, and I hope it will be helpful for you– or for someone else that you’d like to pass it along to.

Also, please note that I have a compendium of OCD posts here, with topics that range from ERP, HOCD, OCD & Christianity to medication, OCD & children, and remission. I hope you’ll check it out.

Blessings on you all during this season.

Is what I fear possible?

uncertaintyAhhh, that’s the big question for those of us who suffer from OCD!

If you ask your friends, they will probably try to reassure you and say no.  This feels good. For ten minutes. Then you want to ask someone again.

If you really want to heal from your OCD, you have to start answering that question with a yes.  Through ERP, my refrain became, “It’s possible but not likely.”

I know you think uncertainty is your enemy. It’s not.

It’s actually your liberator.

For (lots!) more about the ERP therapy that teaches you to accept uncertainty, check out jackieleasommers.com/OCD.

Image credit: Russ Allison Loar